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Lynx 87, Sun 83: Hot Shooting Performance Gets Minnesota Back to .500

Kayla McBride’s 19 points led a well-rounded team effort that earned the Lynx its second straight gritty road win without Napheesa Collier.

Minnesota Lynx v Connecticut Sun Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

When Napheesa Collier went down on Wednesday and a tough slate of games coming up no one knew what to expect from a young and inexperienced Minnesota Lynx squad when they hit the road on Thursday afternoon. With the team facing real adversity, veteran guard Kayla McBride has stepped up massively at a crucial point in the season. After a great showing on Friday against New York, McBride went into Connecticut and continued her hot streak by scoring a team-high 19 points on 7/10 shooting, including 4/7 from beyond the arc.

The Lynx led the majority of the way and snuffed out every Sun comeback attempt with stout defense and efficient offense. Minnesota shot 57.4% from the field and held the Sun to 38.9%. While the offense was certainly encouraging, the defense was what truly shined in the game. Minnesota Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve has preached the importance of being good on that end of the floor, as it is controllable regardless of how well the team shoots, and it usually points to winning basketball.

After a back-and-forth first quarter that ended with the Lynx leading by two, the second quarter was all Aerial Powers. She scored 11 points on a perfect 5/5 shooting in the period, providing crucial buckets in the half-court. After battling injuries and being in and out of the lineup, it was awesome to see her fill it up at a high level — potentially an important development as Rachel Banham remained sidelined with a fractured thumb on her shooting hand. That boost off the bench was exactly what the Lynx needed to take a four-point lead into halftime.

After the break, Lindsey Allen and McBride started to take over with Jess Shepherd injecting the pace into the offense. The former Notre Dame guards hit some big shots, including K-Mac giving Connecticut fits from beyond the arc. Even though she did not explicitly tell the Sun bench to do so like she did to New York on Friday, she still caused Connecticut Head Coach Stephanie White to take a timeout to stop the bleeding. Allen had an efficient 16 points (6/8 from the field) to pair with her six assists in the contest.

The fourth quarter was winning time and the Lynx showed their ability to grind out a tough win against a great team. There were a few times when you thought that the Sun were going to prove too much for the young Lynx, but Minnesota held strong and were able to pull it together by getting tough buckets down the stretch by way of key backdoor cuts allowed for some easy layups.

This all set the scene for a 85-83 Lynx lead with 12 seconds left on the clock. The Sun had a chance to break Minnesota’s hearts and send them home with the sour taste of defeat.

Not on Dorka Juhász’s watch.

As DeWanna Bonner went up for the game winning 3-pointer, the 23-year-old rookie launched with her, tipping the ball at its apex. The ball landed harmlessly on the deck and the Lynx finished out a huge win on the road.

Let’s look at some of the key takeaway’s from the matchup:

Welcome Back, Jess Shepard

Jess Shepard missed significant time with an illness that has her on a minutes restriction as she works her way back. Today, she displayed how essential she is to everything the Lynx are trying to do on the offensive end. Shepard scored 12 points and had 14 rebounds off the bench and was in the game when it mattered the most. She instilled the grit, pace and energy that is needed for a 1 PM Sunday tip on the road. Without her superb play, the Lynx would not have won this game.

Much Needed Minutes off the Bench

When Collier was healthy, the Lynx’s biggest issue was a lack of consistent ancillary scoring around the three-time All-Star, specifically from the bench unit. That was not the case today as Shepard and Powers provided huge minutes and a scoring boost to a thin Lynx squad. They combined for 26 points off the bench and were both in the game at the most critical moments. If this can sustain with Phee’s return that could be a dangerous thing for the rest of the WNBA.

Great Shooting and Tough Defense

The Sun have one of the toughest defenses in the league. They are second behind the Las Vegas Aces with a 97.6 defensive rating. Despite that, Minnesota was still able to dice up this tough defense and shoot an eye-opening 57.4% from the field, their best mark of the season. They also held the Sun to 38.9% from the field. These two things in tandem make it much, much easier to win basketball games — and the Lynx did just that.


The Lynx are on a three-game winning streak, including the last two coming against the second and third-ranked teams in the WNBA. Oh, and they also have been doing all of this without their best player, Napheesa Collier. Getting back to .500 while playing inspired basketball has been very fun to watch and makes the standings watch even more intense as we get into the ladder half of the season.

While there was a lot to like within the game, with the shooting stats as lopsided as they were a four-point victory does not look nearly as impressive. I am all for “a win is a win” mentality but there is plenty that Minnesota will need to clean up before their rematch with the Sun in Connecticut on Tuesday. The Lynx had 20 turnovers while only forcing 10 and surrendered 11 offensive rebounds. Both of those things shrunk the final scoring margin, and are great ways to lose winnable games. Minnesota was able to overcome it today but need to clean it up if they are to continue on this winning streak.

Watching the team band together like this has been a fun watch and a great learning experience for the young rookies finding their way in this league. One thing is for certain after watching these last few games, though: The Lynx have two of the best rookies in the entire WNBA, and they aren’t going anywhere.

Next Up

The Lynx are right back in action on Tuesday again battling the Sun at 6 PM CT on ESPN.

Game Highlights